In the Year of Bottomless Bailouts, I am most grateful this Thanksgiving for Americans who refuse to abandon thrift, personal responsibility and self-reliance. When the moochers and entitlement-mongers drive you mad, remember that our nation still serves as home to millions of citizens who do for themselves. Like our Founding Fathers, they are God-fearing people -- the ones elitist pundits ridicule as "oogedy-boogedy" -- who will never put their faith in the Cult of You Owe Me.
They are people like my reader Jen, who runs a family farm called the Double Nickel in New Mexico. Tired of all the handwringing, "in times like these" rationalizations for unprecedented federal intervention in the financial markets to rescue beleaguered businesses and homeowners, Jen wrote me a letter this week about her own plight and triumph over adversity:
"I am writing to you to share my story of how one can survive hard times and land solidly on one's feet. … So here goes: My husband had an auto accident on Jan. 1, 2005, and our lives and finances changed dramatically. Our income was cut in half, as he has permanent injuries and went from being a field officer to a desk job in a less fast-paced career."
Instead of staying in a home they couldn't afford and waiting for a mortgage rescue from the savior Barack Obama, Jen, her husband and their four children moved to New Mexico because of the much lower cost of living and college tuition expenses. One of her sons is now a soldier -- the third generation in her family to serve, including Jen's father, who was killed in Vietnam. The other kids are home-schooled students (among a growing population of home-schooled kids, whom "The View's" condescending co-host Joy Behar recently derided on the show as being "demented"). Jen continues:
"We sold our lovely home, bought a rundown, fixer-up place and converted it into a farm that could provide garden vegetables to can and an area to have some animals to provide eggs, chickens, ducks, turkey, geese, sheep and goats. … Freecycle and Craigslist turned out to be wonderful assets, as most of our animals came for free or for barter -- and the children and I mucked out stalls on a ranch for sheep."
Yes, they raise turkeys and other animals, and sell them for profit. This enterprise makes them, in the eyes of The New York Times editorial board, which recently decried Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's visit to a turkey farm, "executioners." That's language the Times would never think of using to describe, say, the Weather Underground terrorists who targeted police officers in cold blood. But poultry farmers? Brand 'em with an "M" for murderers.
But I digress.
Instead of awaiting the next stimulus check from the Borrow-Spend-Repeat-Panic politicians in Washington, Jen explains how the family has cut costs:
"I learned how to make my own shampoo, toothpaste, soaps, cloth napkins, dish scrubbies, potholders, skirts (mend all clothes) and most meals from scratch. We heat our home exclusively with wood, and I am currently growing a winter garden. The spring garden will be in containers by the last week of December to prepare for spring planting. I do not see this as a downfall or a tragedy. For those worried about holiday spending: I spent only $100 for a family of six last Christmas, and most of that [on] underwear, socks and the meal."
And she adamantly rejects the victim card:
"This accident has been a blessing for my family. The pain that my husband has daily is not the blessing, but that he is alive and able to continue to watch his children grow into adulthood.
"It also has been wonderful to know that we live in a nation that affords us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves from suburbanites to a country-dwelling farm family. I am ashamed to see the American spirit that made our nation so great now turned into nothing."
Thanks to self-reliant Americans like Jen, that spirit lives. In times like these, they are our greatest blessing.